After a day in which I was truly inspired by the students at our school (post upcoming on our Identity Day), I had the privilege of attending an inspirational day of professional development in which there was no keynote, no registration fee, and no agenda. EdCamp Vancouver was brought to us by David Wees and his organizing team and I think it has truly changed the way I view professional development in education.
Although I see the benefit of an expert keynote speaker, and I think these need to continue, the EdCamp format is nothing short of brilliant. There are so many passionate, reflective, resourceful educators (and by educators I mean more than teachers) in our region that the need for that high-priced keynote is lessened. Also, the learning at EdCamp is completely personalized. Let me briefly explain the day:
I arrived with 2 colleagues, my vice principal and a parent member of our school planning council, and walked into a room not having met any of these people but because of Twitter, felt like I knew them so well. A few presentation ideas were up on a board. If you wanted to attend these, you placed your name on a sticky and placed it on the presentation; if you wanted to facilitate a discussion or present on another topic, you posted a new sheet with that topic on the board. Each participant (there were over 100 of us) chose 4 topics and once the topics had enough participants, they were placed on the schedule. There were 4 rooms that held 4 sessions so we had a total of 16 sessions. The organizers moved the sessions around to best suit the participants. Topics included Moving Away From Grades, Questioning Awards, Project Based Learning, Assessment For Learning, Parent Engagement, Ted Talks for Kids, Making e-Books, Social Media 101, and many others.
I had the opportunity to “present” on Awards in Schools and Assessment For Learning. When I say “present” it was more like I did a mini presentation (15 minutes) and then we spent 45 minutes discussing the “how” of AFL. I was not there as an expert but more as one to throw out ideas, challenge others, and be challenged. After the presentation, I became a participant of the dialogue so my learning was enhanced. (You can access my Prezi on AFL here).
A big difference between the Edcamp “unconference model” is the amount of time built into the day for connecting with others outside of the presentations (David Wees has a good visual on his post). The day is all about dialogue rather than listening to lectures.
Some of the key ideas that I came away with:
- many educators want to see changes with the way we educate/school kids
- the shifts are happening in the way we engage and motivate kids in a way that moves from extrinsic to intrinsic and information delivering to exploration
- there are many powerful ideas but the implementation of these ideas is often the challenge (ie. how do we do this within our current education structures)
- we cannot and should not do this alone – we must work with all stake holders
- professional development needs to be ongoing and is best accomplished through dialogue around powerful questions
- We are not “just teachers” or “just parents”. BC is loaded with passionate educators!
Two days later, I am still inspired by the day’s conversations; I now look forward to seeing where this model takes professional development in schools and districts. My final question is this: if this was such a powerful learning opportunity for educators, how can we do something like this with kids?
We tried this at Harrison a few years ago. It had a different name but the idea was the same. I also found it an effective way to discuss issues that were important to people.
Chris, a great day, I agree.
Meeting everyone for the first time, after having engaged online for the past 7 or 8 months, took away much of the awkwardness of first ‘hellos.”
It definitely was about the powerful dialogue and the provocative questions which we left with. Unlike the usual pro-d, this was not about ‘getting’ something (that great lesson plan or unit) but rather about ‘discovering’ & valuing the impact that shared conversation can have on future dialogue (and by extension, future practice).
Thanks for being a part of it and sharing your thoughts
Thank you for a very clear description of an edcamp. I think this sounds like a great format for in-service as well and I particularly like the idea for kids, giving their voices expert status.